Friday, October 29, 2010


Common teatree/Manuka Leptospermum scoparium
There aren't many Hobartians who aren't able to walk out of their door and be in amongst the gum trees within 20 minutes or so, even if some of you have a massive Forest Road (or similar) stitch by the time you do! This proximity brings with it, blessings, trials and responsibilities.

White peppermint,
Eucalyptus pulchella
Blessings: Please forgive the religious tone of this verb, but blessed we are! If you've been reading this blog, and at the risk of sounding like a raging hippy, you'd have picked up on my veneration of Nature. And Hobart is wrapped right up in it. Knocklofty, Wellington Park, Waterworks, the Queen's Domain, Lambert Park.... the list goes on! Before my conversion to the green side, nothing healed my spirit and my lungs, after a long day breathing bleach and perming solution, like a stroll with my dog through Knocklofty or Wellington Park. Clean air, a parade of flowers and seeds through the seasons, and exchanging friendly nods with others seeking the same 'forest time'.

These walks offer a great demonstration of diversity. Mudstone, sandstone, dolerite. North, East, South and West facing slopes. Silver, white and black peppermint gums and their kin Stringybarks, White Gums, Blue Gums. Whoa! Better stop there before I get to listing everything and run out of room here. But you get the picture! In a relatively small area, Hobart has some wonderful, diverse forest for us to enjoy. But sadly this is shrinking. Developments, with smaller blocks and bigger houses doesn't leave much room for the local non-human inhabitants to make their homes. But here at Provenance Growers we've hatched a plan to help you bring Nature back down those slopes and into your gardens. This last few weeks I have been potting up little, tiny seedlings, grown here, from seed collected with permits, from Knocklofty, Lambert Park, South Hobart and the Queen's Domain. These should be ready for your garden in a couple of months. (See the list below.)

Trials: There are some things that make living near the bush a little less wonderful. These are, for me at least, furry and slithery animals and fire.

White peppermint, Eucalyptus pulchella, flower buds
Furry animals are a mixed blessing. Who isn't enchanted by the cute face, and fluffy charm of the brushtail possum (okay, I know there are a few who aren't...)? And wallabies and pademelons are so cute, that even though we're surrounded by them, the garden fairies and I are still excited when we find a little pawprint in the mud outside, and measure the length of the hops by jumping ourselves. But when they find the veggie patch, or any other plant that we're nurturing, they think nothing of helping themselves. But there are tricks that we can use to get around their thieving ways. Secure fencing, perhaps electrified or floppy topped, and protecting individual plants with wire, bags and stakes and other such devices are conventional ways of living with these creatures, but there are other tricks (never fail safe mind you) that I've discovered by chance. I've planted zucchinis and pumpkins in vulnerable areas in the past and by planting a big ring of them I've found they protect more tender plants from predation by encircling them with their prickly leaves. I've also heard of another gardener using nettles as an effective barrier, and I just found a lovely sprouting broccoli plant nestled among the borage where the other plants from that batch have all been nibbled into broccoli bonsais! There are other things like smelly spray deterrents and browse resistant plants, not to mention a tasty spaghetti Wallanaise for the hard willed gardener.

Snakes make me especially nervous. With two small garden fairies and a buffet of frogs for snakes in our garden, the odds of a close encounter are high. There's not much you can do but let the dog in the garden before the kids to frighten them away, and put the little ones in gumboots and jeans and teach them to stamp feet and open their eyes. If you scalp your land and lose the snake habitat you'll also lose out on welcome visitors like wrens, bluetongues and skinks. Apparently most negative snake encounters are with snakes moving from one place to another, removing habitat won't stop them passing through.

Prickly beauty, Pultenaea juniperina.
Pretty, hardy, great habitat,
but quite flamable, use with caution!

Fire is another thing that makes living with our landscape a challenge. In promoting native plants in the suburbs, I was reminded of my responsibility to promote fire safe gardening by the Hobart City Council's bushland fire officer. This is a hard one, all gardens can burn, and you can't have a great garden with no mulch, which can also burn. My gardening collegues and I often discuss fire safe gardening and have lots of different ideas. Come and have a chat with me at Tas Farm Gate, or my friends at Plants of Tasmania Nursery. We will all offer different ideas, and we will all tell you that these are our thoughts only, not an officially rattified way to prevent fire. There is an official document here at Tasmania Fire Service although this brochure has limited (and some, perhaps a little odd) low flamability choices.
Here we have the veggie garden to the North, the direction from which fire is most likely to come. All of the garden beds against the house are mulched with gravel. And I would always encourage gardeners in fire prone areas to avoid planting an avenue of garden beds that can lead a fire right to your house. But I dread, each summer, the ring of chainsaws and brushcutters, as animal homes are destroyed in our efforts to make our own safer. By raking up, and burning every leaf that falls, and removing all of the understorey, we end up with impoverished soil, and put local wildlife under stress. Yesterday this echidna turned up on my sisters drive in Howrah. I bet it didn't want to be on concrete, and I suspect loss of habitat has pushed this poor creature, along with countless, unseen others,  into the 'burbs , where it is unlikely to have a peaceful life.

As for responsibilities, I'll let you make up your own mind, but I can't resist a chance to mention the roaming of cats into gardens that people, like me, are gardening for wildlife and the heartache in watching the local native hens lose four of their five chicks this month to a sneaky black creature, that should live next door, not here!! And the escape of weeds and foreign native species into adjacent bushland. Last week a friend and I saw, on Strickland Avenue, at least three introduced Australian native plants that had self seeded and were marching into the bush that is quite beautiful, and probably better off, without them.

There are a number of wonderful 'care' groups and council run programs for those who want to get involved with looking after their local patch, and learning about what grows and lives in them. I have the good fortune to know Bruce from the Friends of Knocklofty Bushcare Group. He recently gave me a wonderful tour of Knocklofty, pointing out his favourite plants, his least favourite weed incursions, and talking about the fantastic work they have done in the reserve. I left this great walk even more inspired to grow a beautiful selection of local plants for you to plant in your gardens. So here they are!


                   Eucalyptus pulchella, White Peppermint
                   Banksia marginata, Silver Banksia
                   Acacia verticillata, Prickly Moses
                   Ozothamnus ferrigineus, Tree Everlasting
                   Cassinia acueleata, Dolly Bush
                   Allocasuarina littoralis, Bulloak
                   Ozothamnus obcordatus, Yellow Everlastingbush
                   Olearia viscosa, Viscid Daisybush
                   Stylidium dilitatum, Trigger Plant
                   Microlaena stipoides, Weeping Grass

Queen's Domain:
                 Allocasuarina verticillata, Drooping Sheoak
                 Stylidium dilitatum, Trigger Plant
                 Poa labillardiere, Tussock Grass
                 Themeda australis, Kangaroo Grass
South Hobart:
                 Bedfordia salicina, Blanket Leaf
                 Eucalyptus tenuiramis, Silver Peppermint
                 Leptospermum scoparium, Common Tea Tree
                 Allocasuarina monilifera, Necklace Sheoak
Sandy Bay, Lambert Park:
                  Eucalyptus pulchella, White Peppermint
                  Allocasuarina littoralis, Bulloak
                  Dodonea viscosa, Hop Bush

When these plants are ready to enter the world I'll add descriptions for each plant, and there are still more varieties germinating as we speak, I'll keep you updated!

We'll be at Salamanca this Saturday, the 30th of October and at Tas Farm Gate this Sunday, the 31st of October, then the 7th and the 21st of November. We'd love to see you there!
Prickly Moses, Acacia verticillata. Pretty, hardy and wonderful habitat.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tomatoes and Hobart plants.

Greenhouse tomato.

It was a HUGE tomato seedling day today, hopefully the precursor to a huge tomato Summer! Down at the Farm Gate's first birthday market, I was one of at least three stallholders who were selling loads of different varieties of  tomato seedlings. Most of the varieties I had for sale I have not grown in my garden before. The ones I have grown are previously are Stupice, (pronounced stoo-peach-ka) and George. The others are new for me, so any one who wants to share their experiences growing these would be appreciated!

One visitor to my stall bought some  Black Cherry saying they were her favourite last season, which is great to hear. So, please share your thoughts and opinions with us, be they culinary or horticultural, and we can learn together and maybe find Tassie's ultimate tomatoes! And remember Mr Cundall's attempts to dispel the 'show day is sow day' myth, with warnings of possible late frosts. Think about potting your plants on and keeping them on a protected sunny veranda out of frosts for planting out in a couple of weeks. Or like me, clatter out in your party shoes after a lovely night out, and tuck your babies in with a blanket (or some straw or bracken fronds) when you sniff a whiff of frost in the air!

This is why you don't plant tomatoes at Neika, in October!

So here are the varieties I have grown, mostly grown from seed from Phoenix Seed and The Lost Seed, and I sincerely thank them for their noble efforts to give us variety like this to enjoy!

Staking varieties:

Heirloom. Rare, dark mahogany coloured fruit resembling large grapes to 3 cm across, produced in trusses on tall vigorous bush. Sweet, juicy flesh with a rich, smoky flavour. High yields. 60 days.

Heirloom. Purple mahogany coloured fruit to 4cm across with green-orange vertical stripes. Dark, firm flesh, with rich, smoky sweet flavour. 70-85 days.

Small, red, egg shaped fruit with smooth skin to 4cm across and excellent flavour. 95 days.

Ivory fruit ripening to a pale yellow - cream colour upon maturity. Very sweet with no acid. High yields. 55-75 days.

Polish heirloom dating prior to 1900. Dark pink, flattened fruit with thin skin to 500g. Flesh is firm & low in acid. 75 days.

Czechoslovakian heirloom, cold tolerant, with abundant sweet 2-3inch red fruit. Hardy, delicious and productive. *Our most productive here, early and cold tolerant.

The most widely produced tomato in Thailand. Small, pink coloured, 'cherry' type fruit; 3-5cm long, or size of bantam egg. Changes from milky white with slight pink colour when young to darker pink as it matures. Plant 60-90cm. Hardy, disease resistant & resistant to cracking. High yields. 55-65 days.

LEICESTER JONES- Tassie bred by a naturopath 25 years ago. Large pink, ridged fruit, good for Tassie.

BRANDYWINE -American Amish. Large pinkish red, flattened, globular fruit.

GEORGE (that’s not its real name, but I couldn’t understand George through his thick accent when he told me!) Fat field type, from George near Margate, seed scavenged from a sauce tomato. This is a bush variety, I use up-turned pots to keep the fruiting branches off the ground.

The other exciting thing happening here is the birth of many babies (plants that is!) from the bushland surrounding Hobart. This week I hope to finish potting up the first batch of seedlings of local native plants, grown from seed collected in the Hobart surrounds. There is everything from grasses to trees and lots of pretty, shrubby things in between! They should be ready for planting early in the new year. Keep watching this space for a complete list later this week.

And now for some completely off topic photos of things that made us at Provenance happy today!

Sugarbaby watermelon. Maybe this is the year??

The only native hen chick left, out of five that hatched near our dam, due to the presence of an evil black cat. Grr!

Don't put all your eggs in one t-shirt!
One of the egg donors, Dickadee (that's what happens when garden fairies name the chooks!).

We'll be at Salamanca this Saturday, the 30th of October, and back at Tas Farm Gate on Sunday the 7th of November. Please let me know if you want anything brought along!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Grazing with Greengaged

My lunch today!
Please click on any of the images for a better view.
Last week I got to live out a little fantasy and play Nigella (without any gratuitous fluttering of the mascara) with some new friends, a gathering of like-minded horticulturalists. I intended to share some off-the-beaten-track type of edibles, and decided that the Nigella method would be a good way to add context to what might otherwise have been an unappetizing parade of greens and weeds. Taking inspiration from my tame chef, I grabbed a huge plate, knocked the snow from the borage flowers, pulled a few edible weeds, and in a completely random and opportunistic manner, came up with this salad. (Arranged, as is my wont, in plant family groups).

First I attempted a stumbling outline of my thoughts on the food we were to eat, which I'll try and make more succinct here.

Diversity is key. Without access to your own plot it can be difficult to find and afford to eat a wide variety of foods. Here, we walk out the back door and gather up to 20 different green things, from herbs to salad greens in the back wilderness. Much of it is self sown, some of it is what is often called 'weeds'. I am no nutritionist, but it seems to make sense to me that eating a wide variety of foods, as fresh as possible, is the best way to nourish our bodies.

Environment is one of our other big motivators. We enjoy breathing, so we want to take care of our planet. Every little thing we harvest means a little less fossil fuel, a little less packaging and a little less time in the supermarket neon, being tempted to buy more stuff we don't need.

Reducing waste. If you waste less you save money and work, and lessen your load on the environment. And you can find some taste sensations along the way! Just look at the weeds and bolting plants below.

French sorrel

Red dock. I mostly use this because it is stunning to look at. It is slightly astringent, but young leaves are tender and mildly flavoured. See the picture at the top of the page, it's the leaf with the rather fetching maroon veins.

French sorrel. Spring is the time to enjoy this zingy green. The newly shot, tangy leaves are wonderful straight from the garden. Later in the season they can become a little intense and are delicious cooked into a tasty, but mildly ugly, khaki coloured sauce or soup.

BRASSICACEAE: I used 3 edible weeds from the cabbage family, and some, often discarded, buds and flowers from bolting rocket and mustard greens, and a most noble representative of the family, wasabi leaves.

Shepherd's purse
Shepherd's purse. The young leaves of this plant were described by another new friend as 'agreeably hairy'. The leaves have a robust flavour, but are not challenging like some of their cousins.

Landcress. If shepherd's purse is mild, this treasure occupies the other end of the scale. It is earthy, pungent and hot. But young leaves are crisp and juicy with a pleasant kick. One of the salad eaters there suggested leaving pungent leaves to soak in cool water to leach out some of the kick. Something to try for the next salad!
Flickweed, Cardamine sp.
Flickweed. The bane of the nurseryman and the tidy gardener's life, this little weed has the ability to launch its tiny seeds great distances with its little, spring-loaded seed capsules. But when it is young and lush, the tips of flowering stems and unripe seed pods are pretty on the plate, and pleasant to eat. But don't plant any on purpose, you'll regret it!
Wasabi. As well as the famous paste made from the grated rhizome of the plant, wasabi leaves and stems are delicious. Juicy and with a wonderful whisper of wasabi kick. More wasabi talk here!

Rocket buds and flowers

Rocket and mustard flowers and buds. Often when crops are bolting we yank them out. But this shortens our harvest, and we miss out on the pleasure of a floral feast! Right now, before aphids strike, they are a delight to nibble on, as you wander about in the garden deciding which job to tackle next. Rocket flowers are faintly rockety and sweet, and have more texture than you'd imagine. Very nice!

Orach seedlings

Purple orach sprouts: Many plants have naturalised in my garden, and one I really get good use from is the purple orach. It is self sown from seedlings planted a few years ago. It germinates in early Spring and is tasty right from its very tiny beginning. Our salad tonight included the thinnings from my patch, normally discarded, but if gathered carefully, it is easy to pinch off dirty roots and rinse and eat the whole, tiny, pretty plant. As it grows, young leaves and tips can be enjoyed raw, older leaves can be briefly cooked, and flower buds are great quickly blanched, or wilted in garlicy, herby butter.  


Mitsuba, or Japanese parsley. This is a lovely, mild, slightly astringent herb. Apparently used in Japan in savoury custards (which I've found is a great way to get to know the flavours of any new herb) and mild broths, cooked very briefly. Choose young, shiny leaves for your salad and throw them in whole.

Miners lettuce

Miners lettuce. My kids and I love it, chooks can eat, it will put on a wonderful show of teensy edible, white flowers, encircled by a leaf to bring some glamour to the Spring barbecue table, and it comes up in Winter to feed us salad hungry gardeners. It's also reputed to have saved Californian gold miners from scurvy. Nutritious, delightfully pretty, juicy and refreshing, what more could you ask?  


Shungiku. This one I grew for the first time last Summer, and it has obligingly self seeded and given me a few lovely plants that have stood all Winter. The leaves have a savoury, almost meaty flavour and a feathery appearance. It's on the top left of my lunch plate, at the top of the page. Yum!  


Chickweed. This one, I must admit, has been relished by the chooks, but ignored by me until I was influenced by the worlds very best restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen, and a team of local chefs at Garagistes in Hobart who are putting all manner of wonderful, edible plants on their plates. I hope Food Tourist don't mind me linking to their inspiring site! It's the one with the tiny white flowers on the right of my salad plate.

I scattered our plate of greens with flowers, pineapple sage and borage, and the tips of young pea plants, to transform a salad into a celebration of Spring! And the dressing. I used the magic trick of adding freshly ground pepperberries to an acid, in this case Meyer lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, and watching it turn pink! We shook this up in a jar with some salt and olive oil and bruised leaves of lemon-scented savoury, and drizzled it all over my big pile of weeds.
Pepper berries and lemon juice

I'll be at the Australian Plant Society's show at the City Hall, celebrating 'the joy of native plants' this weekend, from the 8th to the 10th of October, and then at Tas Farm Gate on Sunday the 24th of October with lots of the tasty things above, as cut greens for the table, and plants for your patch, so come on down for a chat about your garden.

Please let us know your thoughts, your favourite greens, or some you'd like to try, and we'll see what we can do for you. It's great to hear from you! And there is a post on local Hobart plants on the way......lots of them are sprouting up in the hothouse, ready to green our urban spaces!